Bath-salts suspects ask their bonds be lowered

MUNCIE — You think you work long hours for meager pay?

Three of the defendants in the local bath-salts cases — in court Monday in pursuit of bond reductions — testified their jobs at local convenience stores had required them to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

(One of the defendants acknowledged he did take a day off in 2011.)

Their monthly wages, paid in cash, ranged from $1,200 to $2,000 — as low as $3.57 on an hourly basis.

Ex-Delaware County Prosecutor Mark McKinney, now a criminal defense attorney, appeared in Delaware Circuit Court 5 to seek bond reductions for:

• Ramesh Kumar, 31, being held in the Delaware County jail under a $20,000 cash bond.

• Harwinder “Monty” Singh, 20, with a $50,000 cash bond.

• Kameljit “Lucky” Singh, 20, held on a $30,000 cash bond.

All three men are charged with money laundering and dealing in a substance represented to be a controlled substance. Harwinder Singh is also charged with corrupt business influence, more commonly known as racketeering.

They were among eight men arrested in the wake of June raids at six local convenience stores after a nine-month investigation into the selling of bath salts and spice, so-called “designer drugs” that mimic other controlled substances.

Testimony during Monday’s hearing indicated McKinney had been retained by the Sikh Temple of Indianapolis to represent Kumar and the Singhs.

Prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold and Eric Hoffman, chief trial deputy, objected to McKinney’s requests for bond reductions, suggesting the defendants — all natives of India who allegedly entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico — were flight risks.

McKinney objected to Hoffman’s questions about how the men entered the country, saying they had a right to remain silent on that issue.

The men — usually responding directly to the attorneys, but at times using a court-appointed translator — said they had sent most of the money they earned locally to family members living in India.

Each said they didn’t have any local relatives, but Kumar and Harwinder Singh said they did have local girlfriends, who were also called to the stand during Monday’s proceedings.

Jerry Cook, chief investigator for Arnold’s office, testified he was told federal authorities intended to place immigration holds on the three defendants.

McKinney maintained no such documents had been at the Delaware County jail.

The defense attorney said his clients lacked the resources to even contemplate a return to India before standing trial on the Indiana charges.

“They don’t have any money,” McKinney said. “They don’t have any passports. … They don’t have anywhere to go.”

Cannon took the bond-reduction requests under advisement, adding he was not inclined to grant McKinney’s request to release his clients on their own recognizance.

“I haven’t heard any evidence that anyone is willing to come forward and post bond,” the judge said.

Sukhwinder Singh, an Indianapolis man purported to own at least some of the local stores that were raided, attended Monday’s hearing.

He does not face criminal charges, but is named as a defendant in a related forfeiture lawsuit.

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